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Take a Break!

Posted By Kurt "Telas" Schneider On June 16, 2011 @ 2:08 am In GMing Advice | 6 Comments

It’s not the most intuitive notion, but taking a break from gaming is a good way to improve your GMing. Don’t just take a break from GMing, take a break from gaming.

(Some of you may know that my wife and I had our second daughter recently. No, this is not the result of sleep deprivation; I had this piece half-written before the third trimester.)

I’ve taken a few breaks from gaming. One was nearly 20 years, during which I pursued a broad range of activities and became a much more well-rounded person than I was in high school. Many of my experiences make me a far better GM; nearly all of them make me a better person.

I took over a year off from GMing for my first daughter’s birth, and went from being a prep-heavy, rule-bound D&D 3.5 fan to an improv-loving Savage Worlds fan. That much of a jump in GMing style would have been impossible without a break. (No, a break needn’t be that long.)

Why should you consider taking time off from gaming?

  • A break allows you to immerse yourself in the real world, to learn about people and things that may have been occluded by gaming. When the break’s over, you can bring these things back into your game, and it will be a better game for it.
  • A break lets your creative batteries recharge. Your ideas will fully mature and become deeper and more solid before being put into play.
  • A break lets you drop bad habits and predictable behaviors, and come up with new approaches to GMing.
  • The ideas and thoughts bubbling around your subconscious can come out and play, instead of being pushed aside for ‘more of the same’. This is how I went from being a by-the-book 3.5 gamer to an improv-heavy Savage.
  • A long enough break gives you the time to learn a new gaming system, embrace a different genre, or tweak existing ones.
  • Your gaming group may change as the result of a break. This is not a bad thing; many groups get stale, and keep covering the same ground over and over.
  • During a break, you’ll be spending more time with the people in your life, or meeting new ones. This is definitely a good thing.
  • When you come back, everything will look new again. You’ll see things you hadn’t seen before, and take approaches you hadn’t considered before.
  • Finally, when you come back, you’ll have more enthusiasm and energy, which will translate into a better game for everyone.

I’m currently taking a break from gaming, mainly because of the birth of our second daughter. I’m still a gamer, and still a Gnome, but I’m also pursuing other hobbies and activities in my time away. Heck, I’ve already stumbled on my next campaign concept, but that’ll have to wait until another time…

Have you gotten positive results from hanging up your dice for a while? Think that life without gaming, even for a month or two, is impossible? Sound off in the comments and let us know!

About  Kurt "Telas" Schneider

Kurt Schneider played D&D in 1979 at summer camp, and was hooked. He lives with his wife, daughters, and dog in Austin TX, where he writes stuff, and tries to stay get fit. Look for his rants under the nom de web Telas or TelasTX. Quote: “A game is only as balanced – or as good – as the GM."




6 Comments (Open | Close)

6 Comments To "Take a Break!"

#1 Comment By GigaNerd17 On June 16, 2011 @ 10:00 am

I took a break from D&D and discovered the Stew. ‘Nuff said. ;)

#2 Comment By BryanB On June 16, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

I had a gaming hiatus from late 1999 to mid 2002 or almost four years. I think I played in two or three games during that entire time. I ran nothing.

A break can be a wonderful thing. It did wonders for me. When I came back, I was determined to improve my game master skills. I focused on being a better GM. And we didn’t have the stew in 2002.

I think my own games are completely different (by that I mean night and day better) than they were before the hiatus. So it was a good thing to do for me.

#3 Comment By Patrick Benson On June 16, 2011 @ 12:47 pm

I took a break of several years from GMing due to a severe case of GM burnout. I was the only person who would run a game for my former group, and taking that step back from the screen definitely made me a better GM.

I literally break all of the “rules” upon returning and realized how many of them were just geek culture myths. “It is so hard to find a gaming group!” – Nope. It is rather easy actually if you just go out and sell the concept of the game to others. “Everyone deserves to play.” – Not at all. Some people should be shunned and left to wander in the wilderness until they solve some social problems that they have. “You need to start with world building.” – Total bull. It is better to keep the world building process dynamic and managed one session at a time.

Of course others might have a different experience, and I am not suggesting that what I am saying above should be taken as absolutes. The point is that I discovered that they were misconceptions that I had, and that I never would have discovered that unless I had taken a break from gaming in general.

And during that break what did I do? I cycled and camped and pursued my career and other hobbies. I learned more about surviving in the wilderness backpacking then I ever learned from a player’s guide. It was fun, and now I am sharing my love for both gaming and my other passions with my children. All because I took a break and tried new things.

Great advice, Kurt. Spot on!

#4 Comment By E-l337 On June 16, 2011 @ 11:43 pm

Near the end of my college time, as I was approaching the last year of classes, my group had a major falling out, and I wound up saying that I would stop gaming period for the foreseeable future. I was getting tired of putting so much time and energy into the games I was trying to run only to have it falling short and everything just coming apart at the seams by the end of a session.

So I stuck to my word and stopped playing games. It did me a hell of a lot of good, especially after GMing almost nonstop for about five years or so. Six months later, I came back and started a brand new game, sick of hearing complaints that “nobody wanted to run”. It was like without me, things never seemed to get done.

I have to say, it did wonders not just for me, but also for my group. It let us reconsider a lot of things, and overall has helped group cohesion. We’ve introduced a few new members, but I think if we hadn’t taken that break, we probably wouldn’t have let anyone new into the group, for fear they’d run away screaming or something.

Everyone needs a vacation once in awhile – even from one’s regular vacations.

#5 Comment By Scott Martin On June 19, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

I’ve rarely been away from gaming for long, but I do agree that there’s nothing like a total break for recharging your batteries.

Just being a player gives you a new perspective, but stepping away completely lets other things fill the gap. Often, after doing something else for a while, I have more ideas, new plots, cool stuff that must be done. After they build up pressure enough… boom, new game!

#6 Comment By SavageTheDM On June 21, 2011 @ 7:48 am

This is one Heck of a good idea. I have never really considered taking a “complete” break from gaming before. I think I am going to end up trying that out sometime soon but for now I finally got to play with an old friend of mine inside of his group so I have to take that up but I will definitely will take a break from gaming and recharge my batteries. Thanks for advice.


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